They say dogs are a man’s best friend, but these special canines go above and beyond for their humans. Autism assistance dogs are specially trained to provide safety for people on the autism spectrum, and to help them develop a more independent and socially inclusive life. Here are two heartwarming examples of the unique friendship between children and their assistance dogs.
Reilly and Jason form a special bond
Five year-old Reilly has autism and becomes overwhelmed by social outings. Overly stimulating environments like shopping centres are difficult for him, and to regulate his anxiety he tries to run away from the source of stimulation. This poses obvious safety risks for Reilly, so his family were relieved to welcome assistance dog Jason into their home – a goofy but gentle Labrador.
Reilly almost drowned in a local creek after trying to escape the playground, so Jason was tasked with protecting him. When they are out in public Reilly is tethered to Jason, who also has a calming effect on the little boy. Not only that, Reilly’s sleeping has improved, as has his ability to sit quietly and enjoy story time. The change in Reilly’s demeanor has been dramatic – and it’s all because of Jason.
Adam and Grant become best mates
Fourteen year-old Adam has an interesting roommate – for the last six years his assistance dog Grant has slept in a tent beside Adam’s bed. The lively black Labrador lives with his family in Northamptonshire, offering support and independence to the teenage boy. Grant joined them in 2011 at the completion of his training, and not long afterward the two became inseparable.
Grant helps Adam in a number of ways, protecting him in public by ensuring that he doesn’t run away when he gets stressed and helping him to cross the road safely. Adam’s anxiety had made participation in public life difficult, and Grant has opened up a new world for him. Since adopting Grant, Adam’s social skills have improved, and his interactions with the family are more calm and relaxed.
These two examples show the extent to which assistance dogs can enrich the lives of people who are living with autism. Assistance dogs are effective at soothing anxiety, protecting children in public spaces and minimising the overwhelm that comes with stimulating environments, but most importantly – these relationships are characterised by unconditional love and enduring mateship.